Miscellaneous Aspects and Concluding Remarks

One of the more impressive aspects of the Skull Canyon NUC6i7KYK is the reappearance of Thunderbolt in a mini-PC. We have already covered Thunderbolt 3 in good detail. From the perspective of a Skull Canyon evaluation, the Thunderbolt 3 port does deserve a bit of attention. It must be noted that this USB Type-C port can also act as a USB 3.1 Gen 2 host port. Our evaluation of this feature is in two parts - we first hooked up a SanDisk Extreme 900 1.92TB USB 3.1 Gen 2 SSD and ran a quick speed test. We were able to see results similar to our review numbers, indicating that the USB 3.1 Gen 2 mode was indeed active. For the Thunderbolt part, we decided to check out Thunderbolt networking with our direct-attached storage testbed.

A Thunderbolt cable between two PCs is enough to create a Thunderbolt network

Connecting the Thunderbolt ports on the two machines and allowing the PCs to talk to each other automatically creates a 10Gbps network adapter. For a setup with just two machines, it is enough to just set static IPs on the interfaces of both machines in the same subnet, and setting the network location to private so that the machines can talk to each other. We configured a RAM drive on the testbed and mapped it as a network drive on the NUC6i7KYK, Running CrystalDiskMark on the mapped drive showed read speeds of 700 MBps and write speeds of 620 MBps, indicative of a 10Gbps link. The gallery below presents some screenshots of the benchmarks as well as the Thunderbolt networking setup steps.

Moving on to the business end of the review, let us get the complaints out of the way - While the size and form-factor of Skull Canyon are impressive, the acoustic profile is not that great. We would gladly trade a modest increase in the footprint of the system for lower fan noise. That said, the fan noise is in no way comparable to the BRIX Gaming lineup. It is just that it is not as silent as the traditional NUCs.

On the board layout front, we are unable to fathom why the CPU's PCIe lanes are not used at all. It would have been great to have a dual-port Alpine Ridge controller hang directly off the CPU's PCIe lanes. Finally, the ports on the chassis could have done with better spread. The two pairs of USB ports are such that one occupied port ends up making it difficult to utilize the other one in the pair. A port on one of the sides, or, on the lid (without relying on third-party designs), would be very welcome.

But with the above caveats in mind, Skull Canyon is definitely a great product. Simply put, it packs the most punch among systems with similar footprints. It is excellent for casual gamers, but, unfortunately, stops short of being a replacement for systems like the Zotac ZBOX MAGNUS EN970 or the ASRock VisionX 471D - two small form-factor PCs that integrate discrete GPUs at the cost of a larger footprint compared to Skull Canyon. The Thunderbolt 3 port, with an external GPU dock, can somewhat make up for the lack of a discrete GPU for gamers. However, the cost factor becomes a major issue. The 4C/8T configuration of the Core i7-6770HQ is also attractive to consumers looking for a small form-factor system with a powerful CPU, but, they must remember that some price premium is being paid for the Iris Pro graphics.

I am actually looking forward to what vendors like Zotac and ASRock can do with a similar design. If they could take a Skylake-H processor without Iris Pro (say, Core i7-6820HQ), and use the PCIe lanes off the CPU to hook up a mobile discrete GPU, it could deliver the best of both worlds - all the 45W TDP of the CPU can be used to provide raw processing power for CPU-intensive workloads, while a dGPU can handle graphics duties with a separate power budget.

To summarize, Intel has indeed managed to change the game with the NUC6i7KYK. A look at the increase in the gaming capabilities over the previous generation 'gaming' NUCs make the Skull Canyon updates to appear evolutionary in nature. However, the overall platform capabilities (including a much more powerful -H series CPU instead of a -U series CPU, as well as the integration of Thunderbolt 3 and dual M.2 PCIe 3.0 x4 SSD slots) are enough to justify the price premium ($650 for the barebones configuration).

Power Consumption and Thermal Performance
POST A COMMENT

133 Comments

View All Comments

  • Zero Day Virus - Monday, May 23, 2016 - link

    Yep, same here! Would like to see how it compares and if it's worth it :) Reply
  • hubick - Monday, May 23, 2016 - link

    It would also be interesting to see how the new BRIX like the GB-BSi7T-6500 stack up. Reply
  • Barilla - Monday, May 23, 2016 - link

    I think it's time to drop the 1280x1024 gaming benchmarks. Virtually no one is going to play at such resolution, especially not with a 1000$ pc if a 22" 1080p monitor can be bought for a hundred bucks and change. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Monday, May 23, 2016 - link

    If your GPU is slow you HAVE to game at such resolutions, no matter what monitor you have. Reply
  • TheinsanegamerN - Monday, May 23, 2016 - link

    Then test at 720p. Nobody buys 5:4 monitors anymore. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - link

    The aspect ratio does not really matter for GPU testing, it's just the number of pixels the GPU has to compute. So performance at 720p will actually be a bit better. Reply
  • cknobman - Monday, May 23, 2016 - link

    Its rather lame that Anand would post up these low resolution benchmarks to try and make the iGPU not look like a total joke (which it is, at least at this price point).

    For $1000 if it can muster a playable framerate at a resolution outside of a decade old standard than this thing is overpriced.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, May 23, 2016 - link

    Lots of casual gamers do play at low resolutions because they don't have the budget to stay on the high end GPU treadmill. The real issue is that the days of doing so at 1280x1024 instead of 1366x768 are long past. This was brought up the last time gaming benchmarks were updated here; but is even more of a glaring issue as time goes on. Reply
  • DanNeely - Monday, May 23, 2016 - link

    1680x1050 really should be replaced with 1600x900 too. 16:9 monitors have become ubiquitous; testing at narrower aspect ratios doesn't fit real world usage anymore.

    I could see a case for going wider at the upper end and slotting an ultrawide 3440x1440 test between conventional 2560x1440 and 3840x2180 gaming. Mostly because it looks like the 1080 still falls just short of being able to play at 4k without having to turn settings down in a lot of games; making 1440p ultra widescreen the effective max single card resolution. (An increasingly important consideration with SLI/xFire becoming progressively less relevant due to temporal AA/post processing techniques that play really badly with multi-GPU setups.)
    Reply
  • Barilla - Monday, May 23, 2016 - link

    Yeah, I guess my point was IF you want to test at low res, then test at a more relevant low res - 1280x720, 1366x768, 1600x900 etc. But my other point would be that those graphs looke like they look now cause low resolution is paired with low settings, mid resolution with mid settings and so on. Many games these days don't really slow down that much at increased resolution, but rather at increased postprocessing effects - shadows, antialiasing, DoF, you name it. Before I had my current gaming PC I used to game on a laptop with GT555M inside, which is probably weaker than this IGP by some margin, and I ran most games in 1080p at acceptable framerates by turnig the details down. In general it yielded better fps AND better looks than running non-native res and mid graphics settings.
    But maybe it's just me, I like pixels a lot ;)
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now